Here’s to the friends who will pull you towards the light in your darkest hour
They don’t judge, and they’re there for you when you need them most.
Weddings always make me cry. Jaded as I am, there’s something about two people showing how much they love each other that brings out the soppy in me.
I shed a tear or three at a friend’s wedding last month, but what brought on the ugly cry was a line from a letter his sister had written.
“You were my first friend.”
My late sister and I had a rock-solid friendship. She was my go-to for celebrations and commiserations.
We could infuriate each other, but we were joined at the hip. In the words of Grey’s Anatomy’s Meredith Grey, she was “my person”.
I’ve accumulated a handful of friends over the years who together, form my tribe, “my people”.
That first friendship of mine has served as a yardstick to discern whether someone fits that description or whether they’re just passing through.
Almost four years of heartache and depression saw me admitting myself to a clinic for three weeks last year.
I spent my time there working hard to climb out of the pit of sadness, anxiety, and self-harm that had taken hold of me.
I worked to get myself to the top of that pit, but I’m not sure I’d have been able to step out of it had it not been for friends who reached out and pulled me up.
Here’s hint number one that they’re your person. They’ll stick around while you figure this life out.
It took me years to take the leap, admit to myself and others that I needed help, and finally start to practise self-care.
During that time, friends were there, listening, and occasionally offering advice.
Sometimes they were blunt, wondering why I allowed myself to endure the situation, but chiefly, they were patient – willing to endure alongside me while I gathered the strength to act.
Your person doesn’t judge. That’s hint number two.
Unconditional friendship is a rare thing. I experienced it with my sister, and now I get to have it with a handful of good friends.
While I was at my lowest, they were persistent visitors to my untidy life. When I let them in, they looked past the clutter and the chaos and got on with the business of being a friend.
It can be difficult to determine the tone when you visit someone in a clinic or hospital.
Too solicitous and you risk irritating even yourself; too flippant and you could seem heartless.
Hint number three that they’re your person. They’ll figure out what you need and hit the right note, every time.
Mine knew that I’m not the wailing, woe-is-me type and more than anything, I needed laughter.
There was more laughter during visiting hours in that clinic than might have been appropriate, but it was exactly the medicine I needed.
Anyone who’s experienced a crisis or grief will know that soon after the event, you’re inundated with calls, casseroles, and “let me know if there’s anything…” messages.
But as time passes, people move on to live their own lives or to the next person in need.
The casserole dishes are returned and abruptly, you become aware of the volume of silence around you.
Clue number four is that your person will be the one to break that silence and check in on you.
It’s been two months since I left the clinic. My people were the first to be there in a crisis. They’ve stuck around like stragglers at a party, refusing to leave.
My late sister was my original person. I’m incredibly lucky to say that she wasn’t the last.